GLENDORA, Calif. — official release — NHRA photo — Six NHRA rookie drivers representing three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series classes – Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – are the eligible candidates for the 2014 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, officials from NHRA and the Automobile Club of Southern California announced on Thursday.
The award, which recognizes the top rookie competitor in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and offers a $20,000 prize and traditional trophy to the winner, will be presented during NHRA’s annual championship awards ceremony on Monday, Nov. 17 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. More than 150 of the nation’s leading auto racing journalists will select the winner through a voting system based on the following criteria: number of events participated, performance on and off the racetrack, participation in NHRA promotions and relationships with fans, sponsors and media.
The candidates for the prestigious award are, in alphabetical order: Jimmy Alund (Pro Stock); Richie Crampton (Top Fuel); Jonathan Gray (Pro Stock); Elvira Karlsson (Pro Stock Motorcycle); Chaz Kennedy (Pro Stock Motorcycle); and Shane Tucker (Pro Stock).
“For more than 100 years the Automobile Club of Southern California has represented integrity, commitment and professionalism to our millions of members. The Road to the Future Award has come to symbolize these same attributes in the sport of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing,” said Robert T. Bouttier, president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. “To be nominated recognizes not only that a rookie driver had a noteworthy first season, but also that they demonstrated exceptional potential for the future. We congratulate all six of the candidates for this year’s award and look forward to enjoying their achievements both on and off the race track for many years to come.”
Alund, 46, of Norrkoping, Sweden, filled in for Greg Anderson at the start of the season and performed admirably for the KB Racing team. He raced to a semifinal finish in Las Vegas and secured his first career victory in his fifth start at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. He also raced to career-best performances of 6.525 seconds and 212.90 mph at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Crampton, 34, a native of Adelaide, South Australia who is now a naturalized U.S. citizen living near Indianapolis, was a crewmember for Morgan Lucas Racing prior to making his transition as a driver. He has two wins to date in his rookie season. He won his first career race in Englishtown in only his ninth Top Fuel start. He also won the world’s most prestigious drag race, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend. He was the runner-up in the Top Fuel Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Indy. He entered the Countdown playoffs as the eighth seed in Top Fuel.
Gray, 33, of Mooresville, N.C., is following in the footsteps of his racing family during his rookie Pro Stock campaign. He raced to a victory at the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs and earned runner-up finishes in Bristol, Epping and Dallas. He clocked career-best performances of 6.511 and 214.08 both at Englishtown at the controls of his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro.
Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Karlsson, 19, of Uppsala, Sweden, is in her rookie season after racing in the European Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks. She has attended seven events in 2014 and qualified for her first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Norwalk. She posted career-best performances of 6.947 and 192.08, both coming at Englishtown.
Kennedy, 20, from Ormond Beach, Fla., races for the successful Star Racing team on his Buell motorcycle. He qualified a season-best fourth in Norwalk and has qualified for every Pro Stock Motorcycle event he has entered. He has raced to three quarterfinal appearances and clocked career-best performances of 6.840 and 196.04 at Englishtown.
Tucker, 29, a native of Brisbane, Australia, has raced his Auzmet Architectural Chevy Camaro to a semifinal round appearance in Chicago and qualified a season-best fourth in Epping. He has also advanced to two quarterfinal round appearances and at Epping posted career-best performances of 6.496 and 213.94.
In 2002 the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing the future stars of the sport. Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA’s biggest stars, including Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car), Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel), Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel), GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock); Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel); Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock); Robert Hight (2005, Funny Car); J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel); Ashley Force Hood (2007, Funny Car); Mike Neff (2008, Funny Car); Spencer Massey (2009, Top Fuel); L.E. Tonglet (2010, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Hector Arana Jr. (2011, Pro Stock Motorcycle); Courtney Force (2012, Funny Car); and Brittany Force (2013, Top Fuel).
NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel), Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel), Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (1998, Pro Stock), Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners in 1996, Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).